AMBIGRAM - “Ambigram”
By Dark Starr
This is a unique and intriguing release. The blend of sounds is decidedly progressive rock, and it has some particularly powerful songs. I would say that "Pig Tree" is probably the best song of the disc, but there are others that provide competition. The one thing that might come with a bit of a learning curve are the vocals. They are unusual, but intriguing. That really fits as the description of this music, too.
The opening "A Mediterranean Tale" starts understated and works out and upward gradually. The cut makes its way through a number of cool prog twists and turns along the road. It has some intriguing instrumental sections. There is a heavy, almost KING CRIMSON-like sound as "Cerberus Reise" gets going. It's a harder rocking tune with some hints of metal, but also some moments where the guitar brings in some reggae. That said, it's very much a progressive rock piece. It has some interesting turns along the road. The guitar solo on this is expressive and creative. The mellower section at the end is a nice touch.
The riff that brings "Pig Tree" in is decidedly metallic. That KING CRIMSON thing is at play on this. It's a powerhouse jam with some killer keyboard work. The shifts and changes here are pretty crazed. There are some decidedly metallic things at play during the vocal section. As it drives out to an instrumental movement I can make out things ranging from JETHRO TULL to YES, ELP and more. We get some guitar hero type stuff as that instrumental section makes its way to a return of the song proper. It turns mellower for the re-entrance of the vocals. The track continues to expand and explore. It gets into some of the most powerful, soaring music of the whole disc. While this is less than eight-minutes long, it is the longest number here, and really qualities as an epic. It is without question one of the real highlights of the set.
I love the vocal arrangement on "Sailing Home." The tune is more of an AOR prog number. It drifts to a melodic, soft rock meets jazzy arrangement mid-track. The vocal arrangement on that is even cooler. This works to a dramatic and soaring movement later. There is a rather YESish movement at the end. This is another standout.
Guitar starts "Imaginary Daughter," and vocals join quickly. It works forward from there with a real classic rock vibe to it. It gets into some driving, hard rocking jamming as it continues. Then it resolves to more melodic zones before working to an almost soulful jam from there. That doesn't last long, though, serving as more of a transition. It gives way to a powered up version of the earlier parts of the song. There is an expressive guitar solo as this drives onward. The song works out from there and through some more intriguing movements.
I dig the classy AOR prog angles on "L'absinthe." For some reason, it makes me think of what you might get if you merged NEKTAR with FLOWER KINGS. The bass on the tune is prominent and driving at times. The guitar solo brings more mainstream rock sound. We get into more purely prog zones in a punchy jam further down the road. There are some jazzy moments on this thing as it continues. The piece eventually crescendos and piano rises up to deliver the closing music without accompaniment.
Intricate acoustic guitar brings "Patchwork" into being. Other instrumentation presents some icing on the cake, but drops away for the entrance of the vocals. A dramatic balladic approach drives the cut as it gets going. The track works out to more of a mainstream mellow rock tune from there. The cut works through all kinds of different prog zones as it continues. I really dig the powerhouse jam later on that has some killer meaty guitar work.
I dig the driving and climbing sound of "Pearls Before Swine." There is a killer guitar hero kind of guitar soloing at several points here. The whole tune is more hard rock than prog, but it really rocks. The bass sure manages to standout, too. There are some proggy blasts here and there. A radio edit of "Cerberus Reise" closes the disc. As you might guess, itis a shortened version of the tune that is around a minute-and-a-half shorter. It works well in this framework.